Moving Series: How to Plan a House Search

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Whenever I start out on some big overwhelming project, I usually waste a lot of time in the beginning because I just jump in without having a system. The problem is, when it is something I haven’t done before (or haven’t set up a system for before), I have no idea what I am doing.

I recently started a house search, but at the beginning I didn’t have a well thought out plan of how to keep track of everything. After going through several systems, I finally settled on one that works a few weeks ago and wanted to share with anyone else who might find it to be useful for a current or future house search.

Narrow Your Search Area

home-search-map

If you are moving to a new city you are not very familiar with, ask your realtor to show you where the good areas are on a map. We finally did this the other day, after going out and searching for houses for at least a few weeks. We could have saved a lot of time by doing this first, because there were a good number of houses that looked great in pictures online, but driving into the neighborhood was all it took to remove them from the list.

Once you have the areas narrowed down, that will help to refine your search on the map. You can create a custom map in Google Maps  by dropping  pins on exact addresses and changing their colors and shapes. This is where it gets fun! In whatever home search site you are using (I eventually decided to stick with Trulia), enter your search criteria and if you are happy with it, save the search.

Then, when you see a home you like, copy and paste the address into the search bar in your Google Map, and see if it is in your area that you decided is nice. If it’s in a good location and will be a contender, save the pin on the map and give it a color indicating that these are the homes you would like to look at (I chose green). If it is in one of the not nice locations, still save it on the map with a pin in the color for “No’s” (I chose black). For homes I would like to look at, there are actually two colors: green pins are properties I have already sent to the realtor to request to view; yellow are properties we are interested in but haven’t yet sent to our realtor.

I have also been saving homes I like within Trulia so I can refer back to their profiles if it turns out to be a house we like. After looking at the actual house, if we decide it is a No, then I turn the green pin to black on the map and delete the home from the Trulia list of saved homes.

Refining Search Criteria

After several days of looking at houses, I started to realize that some of my criteria in my head weren’t being filtered out in my search, because I didn’t consider them when looking online. Not wanting to create too narrow of a search and inadvertently ruling out good houses, I kept the search criteria pretty general, entering just the basics such as minimum number of bedrooms and price range.

After looking at several homes with and several without pools, it became obvious that for our location (Arizona) it made sense to start looking at only homes with pools. I also started noticing that I thought homes with only two bathrooms seemed too small. Since you can’t filter for 2.5 baths in the search in Trulia, I eventually sorted the homes by number of bathrooms and then stopped looking at them once it changed from 2.5 to 2 bathrooms.

Another filter I didn’t originally enter was square footage, again, so as not to rule out a great house. But after looking at actual houses and starting to notice which houses seemed too small (as compared to how much house we could get well within our price range), I then went back and further narrowed the search by minimum square footage. Even though I swear I could totally live the simple life in a tiny home!

The Beauty of Google Maps

Once I started getting into using the map, it simplified the process. I was able to quickly take a screenshot and crop it to just the addresses that we still wanted to see and send the image to our realtor. It also made the searching go quicker, because I could see on the map if I had already looked at something and what I thought of it without having to go through all the pictures again, trying to remember whether it was a house to consider or not.

When we found houses to strongly consider, I changed the shape of the pin to a star on the map. I also had the locations where my boyfriend, Michael, would be working starred in red on the map so we could have a visual of the commute distance when considering a home.

We hope to be in a new home soon! Next time it is time to search for a home, I will do these things from the get-go. There are so many houses up for sale at any given time, it can be very overwhelming to even know where to start. Last time I searched for a house, I tried to weigh the pro’s and con’s of each property and keep track of them on a checklist.

Maybe that is helpful to some, but this time it was more about the overall feel of the house and the area. It was pretty easy to tell on the spot whether this house fits the vision or not. And, it was so much easier to decide based on that rather than trying to compare 50 checklists! In lieu of checklists, I took pictures on my phone throughout the houses, particularly those that we liked.

How do you approach a home search? Please let us know below!

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